Collards are excellent cold weather plants, surviving and even thriving in frost conditions. However, they can also grow well in warm climates during the spring and early fall–making them one of the most versatile vegetables to grow in temperate regions. And in most areas, collards take well to direct planting.
Preparing the soil for planting
If you intend to plant collards directly into your garden, start by preparing a fertile, moist planting site. Loosen the soil well using a garden fork so that you can plant the collards easily. Mix in an inch or two of nutrient-rich compost so that the plants can grow quickly. If you can get your soil’s pH level up to at least 6.5, you’ll be able to ward off some of the common diseases that affect collards. Test your soil to get an accurate reading of the level before you attempt to plant seeds.
Tips for planting
After you’ve prepared the soil thoroughly, you can begin sowing collard seeds. Place the seeds about half an inch into the soil and give them about three inches of space on all sides. When the plants get about three inches tall, thin to stretch the distance out to six inches. Continue this pattern as they grow. You want to achieve a distance of about 18 inches between plants eventually.
If you want to start growing your plants early, consider planting the seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost of spring is expected. As long as the seedlings begin maturing, you can move them outdoors in about four weeks.
Caring for your collards
Collard greens need to grow quickly to develop the sweetest taste, so make sure the soil gets plenty of water and nutrients. Fish emulsion is an excellent fertilizer for collards, since it contributes to rapid growth by adding nitrogen.
One of the advantages of growing collard greens is that they are less likely to succumb to the typical cabbage pest. You can usually keep them safe by simply using floating row covers. The best way to avoid disease in your collards is by rotating the crop every season or two.
How to harvest the greens
Since being exposed to frost gives collards a better taste, it’s best to wait until the first fall frost to harvest them. However, if you prefer an earlier harvest, you can start reaping as soon as the leaves grow to a usable size. Harvest leaves from the bottom of the plant up so that the head can continue producing leaves throughout the season. Wash the collards carefully to remove all the soil before cooking or eating.